Evviva!!! We’ve found mushrooms … on our land … and they’re huge! The promised ‘trulle’ have arrived, and we can walk around swinging our ‘cestino’ in broad daylight as we now have our permission cards ready to whip out of our pockets to show to any questioning Guardia Forestale. We’ve heard stories of pairs of men posing as humble mushroom gatherers in normal outdoor clothes carrying baskets and they approach you to see how well you’ve been doing with your own mushroom collecting then … Aha! … they whip off their outdoor clothes to reveal Guardia Forestale uniforms, check your licence, and, if you haven’t got one, they confiscate your mushrooms, crush them into the ground before your eyes with the heel of their boot and issue you with an on the spot fine for a couple of hundred euros. But that’s just what we’ve heard!
So we found and picked six good sized open mushrooms from our field (the photo on the right shows the largest one we found, almost as big as the chair seat), we cleaned them where we’d picked them from to disperse the spores for the next lot of growth, and then we brought them back to our outside kitchen to prepare them (I say outside kitchen – at the moment it is a table and a gas hob left by the previous owner, but it serves us well when we want to prep something that needs a bit of elbow room). I first removed the long stalks and brown centre buttons and then cut the remaining white flesh of the mushrooms into chunks.
I put the gas on under a large frying pan, added a very generous glug of olive oil and let it heat before stirring in the chopped fresh garlic and following with two large bowls of mushroom flesh. After a few minutes, and some gentle moving around of the mushrooms, I added some chopped fresh parsley from our garden and cooked the lot until they were just starting to show a bit of colour, before removing them all to a glass bowl, where they had reduced to around a quarter of their raw state!
We were never going to feed the five thousand, even though at initial glance it seemed possible with these huge mushrooms … our plan was to make up a basic risotto supper for two and stir through a couple of spoonfuls of this mushroom mixture at the end. It was delicious, light and earthy tasting … but in a good way! The rest … well I’ve still got room in my freezer so I filled another Tupperware box with the remaining mixture and this is now ready for another meal.
The ‘trulle’ are delicious and, I’ve mentioned in a previous post that they can also be fried whole like steaks, again with the compulsory oil, garlic and parsley. They are very easy to spot (you can see them in fields as you’re driving along the road in the car) and, more importantly, easy to identify, due to their size, and are a lovely find, especially at the moment when the ‘porcini’ are being talked about for their absence rather than their abundance.
Because of the dry Summer and only the odd rainy day arriving within the last week or so, the sun is now not warm enough to provide the best growing conditions for these special ‘funghi’. The saying goes that on the day it rains, the number of hours from sunset to sunrise determines the number of days that you must then wait for the ‘porcini’ to grow. So with the sun setting at 7.30pm and rising the following day at 7.00am, we had a wait of 11 ½ days … that’s been and gone now, yet still nothing. And not only is the timing important, when they finally start to grow, they have to be growing at the base of the right trees … ‘funghi’ found around beech trees are not as full of flavour as those from around oak trees.
Now, oak trees we have plenty of – and apparently some of the best ‘funghi’ in the area have been found in recent years on the border of the woods behind our house. We are currently sitting out a two day long heavy rain storm so on the 25th October we will be up there with our basket and our ‘bastone’ (a stick used for clearing the fallen leaves which may be hiding the ‘porcini’ – which actually look like fallen leaves themselves, just to make the search even trickier). Unfortunately, with the lack of mushrooms so far this year, and the knowledge that everyone in the nearby village will already know that we have some of the best ‘funghi’ in the area on the border of the woods behind our house, we may have a little bit of company that day … maybe that’s what the ‘bastone’ is really for!